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ta. They are passionate about science and technology, and they want to encourage and inspire high school students to pursue education and careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects. “We’re helping young people discover science and engineering is not just for nerds. It can be fun, exciting, and a cool thing,” said Bryan Herbst, current president of the group and College of Science and Engineering student majoring in computer science. Although GOFIRST is open to any University of Minnesota student, most of its members are students in the College of Science and Engineering, who participated in FIRST as high school students. Now as college students, they have a dedication to the program nearly impossible to match. “I got involved with FIRST after attending the 2005 Championship FIRST Event as an eighth grader. That’s where I met my future high school robotics team. My involvement in the program caused my parents to become volunteers. Through the organization, I gained so many skills—confidence, communication, and leadership,” said Renee Becker, a recent College of Liberal Arts graduate in scientific and technical communications who served in a leadership role last year and was heavily involved as a student. Becker, who says she was never much interested in robot design and operation, is an enthusiastic supporter of the program and mentored several teams on the competition’s written requirements and team management aspects. She also spent a lot of time leading FIRST workshops, including one session where Girl Scouts could earn a merit badge. “There is no mandatory amount of time required to participate in GOFIRST. It has a tendency to take on a life of its own,” Becker said. “Typically, you figure how much you plan to get involved, and then double that amount. It draws you in, and I’ve become pretty passionate about it,” she added. Herbst advised at least two high school teams this past spring, one of which was from Irondale High School in Mounds View, Minn. With his computer science knowledge, he was able to help with the team’s website and robot programming.

“Volunteering can take up a lot of time, but school always comes first. We’re able to do quite a bit of advising by phone and through email. We also use Skype a lot,” Herbst said.

Collaborative teamwork In addition to the robotics, each high school team is responsible for designing its own website and creating an optional animation film. There is also a fundraising component to the competition. Students must raise close to $12,000 before a high school team can even think of competing. The kit of parts alone costs $6,000. At its core, the FIRST Robotics Competition is an annual engineering contest, with a different objec-

(Above right) Renee Becker, a 2012 CLA graduate and mentor, provides last-minute competition tips to the “Robettes.” The team from Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights, Minn., is the only all-girl FIRST Robotics team to participate in Minnesota. (Left) FIRST Robotics participant displays his costume creativity.

fall 2012 INVENTING TOMORROW 9

Inventing Tomorrow, Fall/Winter 2012 (vol 37 no 1)  

University students mentor First robotics team. Faculty are transforming the college classroom. The "Greatest Generation" share tales of WWI...

Inventing Tomorrow, Fall/Winter 2012 (vol 37 no 1)  

University students mentor First robotics team. Faculty are transforming the college classroom. The "Greatest Generation" share tales of WWI...